Geriatric Massage – Massage and The Aging Body


The U.S. population is aging. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. The 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 16 percent to 23 percent.[1] 


There’s no question that with aging comes several health issues, among them diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and dementia. Osteoarthritis, characterized by joint pain and swelling, also occurs more often as people age, as does Osteoporosis, which results in thinning and weakening bones. Bone breaks are a serious result of Osteoporosis. The condition can also seriously affect posture since Osteoporosis can cause vertebral compression fracture leading to a stooped or forward-leaning posture.


Whether for relief from joint and muscle pain, improved circulation, staying fit, or for a general sense of well-being, massage for elders is growing in demand.  A survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) some years ago found that nine million people over age 55 had a total of 39 million massages in the previous 12 months, mainly for medical reasons.[2]


Understand the needs of massage and the aging body


There is a significant opportunity to expand your business, if you haven’t already, by offering a geriatric massage. To do so, you may need to adapt your massage techniques and the aging body to improve circulation, relieve pain, and increase range of motion, taking into consideration aging skin and muscles. Skin thins with age and is more susceptible to bruising and tearing, and muscles harden and get tighter due to more inactivity. Before you perform a treatment, find out about the client health issue, which may become an issue during the massage:


Geriatric massage generally should focus on


  • Gentle motions to avoid damaging thinning skin
  • Mild stretching
  • Keep sessions short – usually no more than 30 minutes


Also, consider needs for helping elderly with dressing and undressing and lowering table height to make it easier for on-off access. Special methods also may need to be considered for the elderly in wheelchairs.


Massage at home for elderly


Seniors with limited social interaction can greatly benefit from massage provided at home. Massage at home for the elderly may provide the needed touch many seniors do not experience because they are living alone.  In this regard, the social benefits of massage may be as important as the medical ones.  Be prepared to deal with the emotional issues that may arise during the session. This starts by listening to clients speak. Don’t rush to end the conversation.


Psychological benefits of massage for elders


In addition to physical conditions, many elderly experience depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The gentle touch of massage therapy can be of great comfort to elderly patients to decrease stress and improve their state of mind. Also, as one ages, sleep problems can become more of an issue. Sleep issues involve trouble falling asleep, waking up several times during the night, and getting less quality sleep. Research indicates that massage can help address sleep issues.[3]


Grow your business with geriatric massage


You may want to consider special courses to expand your business to focus on massage for elders. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) offers online classes. For example, there are other organizations you can find online that offer special training and certification.



[1] Mather, Mark; Scommegna, Paola; Kilduff, Lillian, “Aging in the United States, Population Reference Bureau, July 15, 2019.
[2] “The Therapeutic Benefits of Massage for Seniors,” American Senior Communities, February 17, 2015.
[3] “Massage Therapy Can Help Improve Sleep,” American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), accessed November 18, 2020.


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